NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Workers hung in harnesses, putting the finishing touches on a sponsor’s billboard high above Broadway. A few blocks north, in Times Square, a three-story stage towered over the crossroads of the world.
Below, the pedestrian plazas stayed relatively calm and uncrowded — for now — beneath blinking ads, most of which referenced the Super Bowl as New York spent a mellow MLK Monday preparing to host the biggest event in sports.
The Feb. 2 championship game, between Seattle and Denver, is still almost two weeks away, and while there will be all sorts of events surrounding the game throughout the metropolitan area of nearly 20 million, the anticipation hasn’t quite started to spike yet.
It takes more than a big ballgame to get New York City excited.
New Jersey, too, where everyone’s still steamed up over allegations that top aides to Gov. Chris Christie orchestrated traffic jams in a northern New Jersey town, Fort Lee, by blocking off lanes to the George Washington Bridge.
Unintentional traffic jams are a concern every day in the region, let alone with an influx of visitors expected and a big game day crowd anticipated at the Meadowlands sports complex.
The traffic snarls will be worse than planned because of the delay on the Route 3 bridge construction project.
The span over the Passaic River connecting Clifton and Rutherford was supposed to be done in time for the Super Bow but unforeseen utility work bumped back the finish date by about six months, WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reported.
Those who live and work in the Meadowlands are bracing for some super-sized Super Bowl traffic.
“Well, you figure the week before is going to be a mess. A lot of activity so you gotta just deal with it,” said one driver.
“Game week it’s going to be tough to get anywhere near this area because they are going to have perimeter set up around. I think they’re going to have a couple of routes closed. It’s going to be one way in, one way out,” another local told Adams.
Three lanes are open east and west, but they’re narrow and uneven.
Game day ticket holders are urged to take mass transit to the game.
The bridge project is now expected to be completed in July.
Crowding in Times Square is always a given, too. To the point that New Yorkers make a point of avoiding the area at all costs.
But on Monday — with most people off from work for the Martin Luther King holiday and the Broncos and Seahawks basking in their conference championships back at home — most of Midtown was calm.
One pocket of energy could be found in Macy’s, where a temporary NFL store is set up to sell tiny Statues of Liberty splashed with Super Bowl logos, NFL shield hats in various colors, helmets in every size from “big enough to protect a golf ball” to the real thing, and virtually anything else NFL-related.
Next week is when Broadway turns into a fan fest, concerts happen in all five boroughs — as well as New Jersey, where the game will actually be played — and LeBron James and the Heat take a rare undercard role when they visit Madison Square Garden and the Knicks.
Monday afternoon, though, workers and security guards outnumbered customers.
Imani Williamson tossed a miniature football in the air to herself and beamed at visitors as they entered Macy’s. When it gets busier later, her job will be to greet fans, ask where they’re from, and make them feel welcome.
Asked if she had seen any crowds yet, the 22-year old ringer on temporary Super Bowl duty said “No, not yet.”
Deeper in the store, Julie Maner commanded a well trafficked corner where whimsical, cartoonish Super Bowl posters by pop artist Charles Fazzino were on sale. She has gone to every Super Bowl since the 2003 game in San Diego representing the artist.
Usually, she says, she has a booth at the NFL Experience, a fan expo that has been modified for the New York game. Most of that event’s activities will be relocated to Broadway as part of the league’s “Super Bowl Boulevard” sending retailers indoors to Macy’s.
Maner wasn’t sure if that would help or hurt sales, but she will have more days to sell the posters, 3D decorated helmets and other works by Fazzino — some of which cost almost as much as game tickets. On Monday, she had just sold a poster to a German couple who wanted a souvenir before returning home, but was expecting to do most of her business next week.
“The out-of-towners don’t come until next week,” Maner said. “I don’t know if it’s going to be busier than usual or lighter than usual.”
A lot of that could hinge on the weather. A winter storm was in the forecast for Tuesday, followed by high temperatures below freezing. If the weather is more pedestrian friendly next week, crowds could come out in force on Broadway. When the “Boulevard” opens, it’ll feature a concert stage, a place for fans to try kicking field goals, a toboggan run, a ticket exchange for buying and selling game tickets and (of course) sponsor come-ons.
That won’t be open until Wednesday, though. On Monday, the signs of the big game were fewer and farther between. Two visitors from Montreal sat outside Macy’s front entrance in chairs, shopping bags at their feet. One of them, Patricia Souza, described herself as a fan of her hometown Alouettes from the CFL, but planned to watch the Super Bowl.
She said she knew the Super Bowl was coming to New York even as they planned their trip. Her friend, who would only give her name as Melissa, hadn’t noticed the hype yet.
“I had no idea,” she said.
And besides, not everyone is excited about the changes.
“This is where we work every day,” said Greg Carroll, who sells tickets in Times Square for Stand Up NY on West 79th Street. “They’re taking away that major tourist area for the comedy promoters.”
Towns around the Meadowlands are hoping to cash in on the Super Bowl crowds and excitement.
A pre-game tailgate party in East Rutherford on Super Bowl Sunday will feature food, drinks and two bands.
“Some people felt that we should do something because the Super Bowl is here in East Rutherford,” Mayor James Cassella told Haskell. “I believe that we’ll probably have more football fans here than will actually attend the game.”
The Winter Blast in Secaucus will run from Thursday through Saturday leading up to the big game and will feature food trucks and a beer garden.
“We think this is just a tremendous selling opportunity and we think that our talent has a lot to sell. We have a lot to offer,” Mayor Michael Gonnelli said. “We have 30 very high-end food trucks. We’re doing a food truck mash. Everything from lobster tails to filet mignon to crepes, hamburgers and hot dogs. You name it, you’re going to be able to get it.”
There will also be activities for kids.
“I think with the Super Bowl, it gives us an opportunity to attract people to this area that haven’t been here before,” said Gonnelli. “The Winter Blast is going to be, I think, the premiere event in this entire area.”
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